Plant Systematics and Evolution

, Volume 298, Issue 1, pp 155–164 | Cite as

Population genetics and fitness in fragmented populations of the dioecious and endangered Silene otites (Caryophyllaceae)

  • Daniel LauterbachEmail author
  • Michael Ristow
  • Birgit Gemeinholzer
Original Article


Population fragmentation is often correlated with loss of genetic diversity and reduced fitness. Obligate out-crossing (dioecy) is expected to enhance genetic diversity, reduce genetic differentiation, and avoid inbreeding depression through frequent gene flow. However, in highly fragmented populations dioecy has only diminishing effects upon genetic structure as pollination limitations (e.g. flight distance of pollinators) most often restrict inter-population gene flow in insect pollinated species. In fragmented dry grasslands in northeastern Germany, we analysed genetic structure, fitness, and habitat quality of the endangered dioecious Silene otites (Caryophyllaceae). Using AFLP markers, a high level of differentiation among ten populations was found (F st = 0.36), while the intra-population genetic diversities (H E = 0.165–0.240) were similar as compared to hermaphroditic species. There was neither a correlation between geographic and genetic distance nor between genetic diversity and population size, which indicates reduced gene flow among populations and random genetic drift. Plant size was positively correlated with genetic diversity. Seed set and number of juveniles were positively related to population size. Higher total coverage resulted in reduced plant fitness, and the number of juveniles was negatively correlated to cryptogam cover. Additionally, we found a sex ratio bias towards more male plants in larger populations. Overall, our results indicate that on a regional geographic scale dioecy does not necessarily prevent genetic erosion in the case of habitat fragmentation, especially in the absence of long distance seed and pollen dispersal capacity.


AFLP Population size Mating system Isolation by distance Sex ratio 



This work was funded by the DBU and Heidehofstiftung. We would like to thank the local nature conservation authorities for the collection permission in conservation areas and Hans Pfestorf for help in the field.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Lauterbach
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Michael Ristow
    • 3
  • Birgit Gemeinholzer
    • 4
  1. 1.Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum Berlin-DahlemFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Institute of EcologyTechnische Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Plant Ecology and Nature Conservation, Institute for Biochemistry and BiologyUniversity of PotsdamPotsdamGermany
  4. 4.AG Spezielle BotanikJustus-Liebig-Universität GiessenGiessenGermany

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